Patten Street Round II
The City of Sonoma has announced the second in a series of community workshops to discuss the future of the old fire station at 32 Patten St., right at Broadway.
The first meeting, held Oct. 8, attracted some 60 citizens, most of them neighbors, nearby commercial property owners or interested developers.
What emerged from that meeting was the clear consensus that no new development should be approved that would add to the existing burden of traffic and parking in the immediate neighborhood.
What did not emerge was any clear agreement on what should be done with the property. Suggestions ranged from offices and residential space, to market stalls, to a parking lot or a park.
The developer – Foothill Partners – announced that previous proposals for a combination of restaurants, retail shops and office space were off the table, and Foothill President Doug Wiele acknowledged that, if anything does get built on the site, it will more than likely be smaller than anything already considered.
Wiele is an engaging and candid developer with excellent credentials and decades of experience, but his first round of proposals proved singularly unimaginative, in both purpose and design. Perhaps that’s because Foothill was guided, first and foremost, by the city’s desire to reap maximum revenues from the property. That may not be realistic.
We would hope that whatever the city ultimately settles on will more closely match the city’s needs, which seem to not yet be fully defined, despite a reasonably succinct list of five primary objectives.
We would argue that one thing the city dearly needs is more downtown parking close to the Plaza and visible to visitors. For that reason, we have suggested that serious consideration be given to converting the property into a well-landscaped parking lot with a pocket park fronting Broadway that features a prominent piece of outdoor art created by a Valley artist, and perhaps incorporating a water feature. A tranquil, intimate park, with benches, xeriscaping, and maybe Wi-Fi, could be a delightful amenity that could pull pedestrian traffic down from the Plaza and serve as a true gateway feature.
The addition of a prominent piece of artwork could also become an incentive and invitation for more public art in Sonoma, and would connect nicely with the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art almost directly across the street.
The community workshop will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, from 10 a.m. to noon, at the old fire station. We hope to see you there.
Meanwhile, at the art museum
While we’re on the subject of art, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the provocative, challenging and sometimes confrontational exhibition currently at SVMA. Titled, “Sonido Pirata: What You Need You Have to Borrow,” the showing demands effort by its audience to engage with the work, some of which is interactive and most of which is dynamic rather than static. Much of it isn’t necessarily pretty, but all of it offers perspectives into a uniquely Hispanic culture Anglos rarely witness or understand.
We congratulate the museum for stepping outside the art box and challenging our cultural perceptions.